Three years ago, Patagonia set out to make a new fleece fabric using natural fibers that didn’t take a toll on the earth. Inspired by one of Yvon’s old wool sweaters, the company wanted to create a fleece with all the properties of wool but with the added durability of a traditional synthetic. Woolyester was born.
Woolyester Fleece is a lightweight layer that dries quickly, packs easily, and is soft on the skin. To make the fabric, Patagonia uses recycled wool. The wool comes from the Calamai family in the Prato region of Italy where they have been recycling wool for nearly 150 years. Thanks in large part to their recycling process, the production of Woolyester Fleece uses 23 percent less water than its synthetic counterparts, and emits 37 percent less carbon.
Recycling wool also keeps clothes out of garbage dumps. The Calamai family collects unwanted sweaters, blankets and fabric scraps from around the world, then sends them to Prato, where they’re sorted, shredded and bundled into towering monochromatic bales.
Recycled wool eliminates the need for dye, and the toxic chemicals and water waste that often come with it. The color experts at Calamai can create almost any hue by plucking a variety of colors from the spectrum of fiber bales, then running them through a rigorous mechanical blending process to render an entirely new shade. Mix three variations of crimson, and you have Patagonia’s Oxide Red.
To create the Woolyester, a feather-light micropolyester is knit into the recycled wool. The result is a fleece that is warm, but doesn’t trap sweat. It doesn’t hang on to odors and it washes well. Easily compressible, it has a higher weight-to-warmth ratio than standard synthetic fleece, and better breathability. It dries more quickly than a wool sweater, and is significantly lighter.
The Woolyester collection is modeled after the company’s original 1970s pile fleeces. They include wide navy cuffs, Half Dome pocket stitching, and slim fit sleeves. The Woolyester fleeces retail for $139-$159 and are available now. The Fall 2018 Woolyester line alone will divert roughly 60,000 pounds of clothing from landfills.